The World Boxing Association Thursday ordered undisputed junior-featherweight champion Naoya Inoue to next meet the sanctioning body’s mandatory challenger, former unified champion Murodjon “M.J.” Akhmadaliev.

By virtue of his standing as a four-division and two-time undisputed champion, Japan’s Inoue (27-0, 24 KOs) is squarely in the pound-for-pound No. 1 boxer discussion with unbeaten, two-time undisputed Terence Crawford and undisputed, unbeaten heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.

Representatives of Inoue and Akhmadaliev (12-1, 9 KOs) have until July 14 to strike an agreement or the bout will be sent to a purse bid. The WBA wrote in its letter to both fighters that it wants the bout to happen before September 25.

Akhmadaliev manager Vadim Kornilov told BoxingScene late Thursday that the timing is sublime, to allow the bout to be placed on the planned September 21 card headlined by former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua fighting English countryman Daniel Dubois at Wembley Stadium.

Saudi Arabia’s His Excellency Turki Alalshikh is backing that card.

“That would be ideal,” Kornilov said of placing Inoue-Akhmadaliev on the Joshua card. “It would be very interesting to see Inoue versus Akhmadaliev be a part of a huge international event.”

Inoue has felt pressure to either move up to featherweight or expand beyond his incredible popularity in Japan – he drew 55,000 to the Tokyo Dome for his May 6 knockout of former champion Luis Nery of Mexico – to another global destination.

In Akhmadaliev, 29, however, Inoue confronts a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist who claimed the WBA and IBF belts in 2020 by defeating Daniel Roman by split decision.

He lost his belts in a disputed April 2023 split decision to the Philippines’ Marlon Tapales on scores of 118-110, 113-115, 113-115, and Tapales proceeded to get knocked out by Inoue in the 10th round of their December 26 bout in Japan.

While Inoue was due to defend his belt against IBF mandatory challenger Sam Goodman after the Aussie met Inoue in the ring May 6, Goodman opted for another bout, moving Akhmadaliev to the fight.

“Inoue was supposed to fight M.J. back (after) he fought Tapales. The judges in the M.J. versus Tapales fight gave Tapales his opportunity in my opinion,” Kornilov told BoxingScene in text messages. “Inoue is a spectacular boxer. He is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but he should be fighting other top contenders like all the other pound-for-pound elite are.

“Are Tapales and Nery, who have both had losses and have been stopped before, pound-for-pound opposition?”